Leader as a hawk and a dove

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The Independent Online
YITZHAK RABIN was seen as a traitor by hardline Jews and Palestinians alike.

Just last month, to the fury of his hardline countrymen, he sealed an accord handing over much of the occupied West Bank to the Palestinians. Palestinian hardliners, for their part, accused him of authorising the assassination in Malta of Fathi Shkaki, head of the radical Islamic Jihad organisation, which opposes Israel's peace deal with the PLO.

The 73-year-old former army chief shared the Nobel Peace Prize for his 1993 deal with Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Last year he signed a treaty with Jordan after 46 years of a state of belligerency.

In 1967, Yitzhak Rabin the warrior led Israel to victory in the Six Day War over Jordan, Egypt and Syria and brought Palestinians under Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza. As prime minister a generation later, he took strides towards peace at an equally swift pace.

The gravel-voiced former general came to power in 1992 vowing to speed up peace moves.

When Mr Rabin shook Mr Arafat's hand at the White House in 1993, critics accused him of breaking every important promise he had ever made. Supporters praised his bold leadership.

Mr Rabin was born in 1922 in Jerusalem, in what was then British-ruled Palestine. He joined the Jewish Palmach military underground at age 18. After the Second World War, he helped free illegal Jewish immigrants in Palestine.

He left the army after 27 years to enter public life in 1968, first as ambassador to Washington and, from 1974 to 1977, as Israel's only "sabra", or native-born prime minister.

His first government fell amid a scandal over an illegal foreign bank account held by his wife, but he remained powerful enough in the Labour Party to win the defence minister's job in a coalition formed in 1984.

When in 1987 Palestinians of the occupied territories launched an uprising, Mr Rabin vowed to fight with "might, power and beatings". But he also pushed for peace, drafting plans put forward by Yitzhak Shamir, the hardline Likud prime minister. Their coalition crumbled in 1990.

In 1992 Mr Rabin came back to smash Mr Shamir with a campaign that portrayed Labour as the party of peace and security.